Do you ever feel like your work is never done?
There’s always more emails to write, more meetings to prepare for, more people to contact. There’s just so much stuff on your plate that you can never get it all done.
If so, you’re normal.
But today I want to give you a few productivity tips for pastors that will help you accomplish more in less time and focus more on the things that matter most.
Let’s get into it.
1. Don’t Neglect Spiritual Disciplines.
Now you might say, “How is that a productivity tip?” Well, spending time in prayer and spending time in the Word of God is productive.
A lot of times, we get so busy that we neglect praying. We neglect time reading our Bible. We neglect spending time with God because we think, “I don’t have time for that. I’ve got so much else on my plate.”
But I’m telling you, you will get far more done with God on your side than you will without him. You’ll get far more done when you are praying than you will if you aren’t.
God will help you supernaturally to get the work done that he wants you to get done, but you need to spend some time with him.
Don’t neglect time in the Word. Don’t neglect time in prayer. Don’t neglect time with God.
Spiritual discipline is productivity.
Disciples are disciplined, and you need that in your life too.
And look, let’s be honest, if you’re running on spiritually empty, you’re going to be far less effective. But when you are spending time with God and prayer and in his Word, God is pouring into you, and as God pours into you, then you can then take that and pour it into other people in your ministry.
You’ll be far less effective when you’re running on empty. If you’re going to be a spiritual leader, you need to step up and lead first in your spiritual life and then all the rest of your ministry will flow out of that.
2. Exercise Regularly.
Now, you might be one of those guys who says, “Look, I’m not into exercise. That’s not really my thing.”
But exercise is proven scientifically to increase your productivity.
You’re going to feel better, have more energy and be more confident. It’s proven to lift your mood, make you happier and help clear up your mind to think better.
There’s a reason you get your best ideas when you’re walking around or when you’re out doing different things other than just sitting at your desk.
Exercise is going to increase the blood flow to your brain, and it’s going to help you in a variety of ways to make you more productive.
You need to get up and exercise at least three, four times a week, if not more. Make it a part of your regular routine, and it’s going to help you get more done because you’re going to feel better, have more energy and be more on your A game, feeling less sluggish and less tired when you’re working.
3. Delegate, Automate or Eliminate.
Look at every single thing on your to-do list and see it through the questions of, “Do I need to delegate this? Do I need to automate this? Or is that something I should eliminate?”
For a lot of us, we have so much to do and not enough time to do it all. So we’ve got to be selective to make sure that we’re only doing the things that only we can do.
When you look at an item, you ask, “Okay, is this something I can delegate? Is this something that I can give to somebody else? Is this something that I don’t have to be the one who does this every single time.”
Maybe there’s a high capacity volunteer, another staff member or someone else who would love to do that thing that you’re not very good at in the first place. You can give it over to them and let them use the gifts that God’s given them.
The next thing you’ve got to ask is, “Is this something that I can automate?”
There’s a lot of things today that technology allows you to automate. If it’s something that recurs over and over again, maybe there’s a program that you can set up where it’s going to automatically do the task for you, so you don’t have to keep doing it.
We could do a whole article on that one.
And then the last thing you ask is, “Is this something I should eliminate?”
Is it something that has to be done? It might be a good thing, but is it the best thing?
In ministry, we have so much on our plates that we get wrapped up in doing good things, but good can be the enemy of great. The things that are good in our lives can be the enemy of doing the things that are best in our lives.
So we’ve got to make sure that we’re doing only the most important things and letting those other things that maybe are good but not quite as important. Sometimes we need to look at that and admit, “Look, that might be a good thing, but that’s not the priority right now. That’s not the most important thing right now, and I don’t need to be spending my time or my people’s time or our resources working on this.”
Maybe it is something that was a good thing for a season but has lost its effectiveness. It’s not as good now, and it’s something that you need to set aside and move forward without.
4. Delegate Responsibility, Not Tasks.
I think I heard Craig Groeschel talk about this the first time I heard it, and it really opened my eyes to what delegation is supposed to be.
A lot of the time when we want to delegate something, we look at our task lists, and we say, “Okay, here’s all the things that I have to do.”
There’s so much that we think, “I need to delegate that.”
Then, we just take that task list and say, “Hey, you over here, can you please do this task for me?” And then we give them the next task and the next task. We’re only delegating tasks.
But that doesn’t free your time up too much, because you’re still the one who has to give the tasks to the other people. You’re not allowing them to lead in anything. They’re just your gopher: “Go for this. Go for that.” So they have to keep reporting back to you for the next task, and that takes up a lot more of your time.
Give people leadership, so you’re not micromanaging them.
Now, maybe at first, you need to set them up a little bit and give them a vision of what it’s supposed to look like. But let them take care of the details, and then you can meet with them or correct them if there’s anything that needs correction.
Now you can work with them as they grow in their leadership in that area. And sooner or later, if you’ve delegated to the right person, they’re going to run with that area of ministry, and you no longer have to worry about it. You no longer have to think about it because you’ve handed over leadership to the right leader.
Now you’re just investing in leaders and getting more done. Your ministry is accomplishing more than if you were constantly having to oversee that thing and micromanage that task and make sure they were doing it right every single time.
Delegate responsibility, not tasks.
5. Automate Your Schedule.
A lot of times in ministry we want to meet with different people. Maybe it’s for a counseling appointment, or with a certain leader that we’re trying to connect with.
But we can spend a lot of time just sending emails back and forth trying to work with our calendars to find a time that we can both meet.
You send out the email: “Hey, I’d love to meet up with you. How does coffee on Monday morning sound?”
And then they send back the email: ”Oh, Monday doesn’t work for me. How about Wednesday?”
And then you look at your calendar: “Oh no. On Wednesday I’ve got this appointment. How about Wednesday afternoon?”
And you go back and forth until you find the right time to meet.
There are awesome tools out there that will help you with this. One that I love is called Calendly.
You can use Calendly to set up blocks in your schedule where you’re just reserving a time that is going to be set up for meetings every single week.
Then, when people want to meet with you and say, “Hey, I’d love to ask you about this.” or, “I could use some counseling.” You say, “Great, here’s the link to my calendar. Find a time in there that works for you.” And they can just click a button and schedule themselves in your blocked out time that you’ve already created for them.
This will save you tons of time.
You can give this link to your admin, church secretary or even post in on your website if you want. Then they can send it to people who want to meet with you to schedule themselves at times you have already preset.
This way, the rest of your week when you need to do other things, you can block out those times to get the work done.
6. Schedule Time With Yourself.
This kind of goes to what I was just saying. When you are looking at your calendar, you need to block out time for you, the things that you need to get done.
Whether that’s working on your sermon or whatever, you need to block that time out. Maybe that’s every Monday morning from 9–noon for sermon prep, or maybe it’s a different time of day.
Block off time for the important things that you need to do every single week, your primary tasks like preaching, meetings or time to work on certain projects.
Block out time in your calendar to do your work. That way, when people want to meet with you and ask, “Hey, can I have you for just a second here? Can I meet with you on this time?” You can look at your calendar and honestly say, “Sorry, I can’t do that time. I have an appointment.”
You’re not lying because the appointment is with yourself, with God and with something that you need to work on. They don’t need to know all the details about what it is.
You don’t need to say, “Sorry, can’t do that. I’m working on my sermon then.” You just say, “Hey, I’m busy at that time. Can we do this time instead?” Or you point them to your Calendly link.
This will give you more time to focus on your priorities, and remind you every single week of the rhythms of things you need to be working on to do your job best. It’ll help you focus on the most important tasks and responsibilities that you have.
7. Make a Daily To-Do List.
You’re going to have a lot of tasks that come in, and you need a place to track all the things that you need to do.
You can use a to-do list app or something like that for keeping everything you have to do somewhere. I think it’s good to capture all that stuff.
But when you open up a to-do list and you’ve just got dozens or hundreds of different things that you need to do, it can be incredibly overwhelming.
You can waste time scrolling through all of it just trying to figure out what the next thing is that you should do. Large to-do lists are not very effective.
You need to take Jesus’ advice when he said, “Do not worry about tomorrow because today’s got enough trouble of its own” (paraphrase, Matt 6:34 ). Just focus on the question, “What do I need to get done today?” I suggest you do a list of just three things that you could say, “If I can get these three things done today than it was a productive, good day.” I do this every single day, and I’ve put together a journal about it that I created just for me. It’s called the Productive Christian Journal.
Every single day it’s going to walk you through your top tasks, and then you can write down some of the other things you need to get done if you have time.
And this helps me focus on only the things I need to get done for each day, and then I can keep all the other things I need to get done on a to-do list somewhere else. So when I’m looking at what needs to get done, I can pull it up for ideas if needed. But it helps you focus on just the important things first.
Get those big rocks out of the way first, and then you can work on all the other small things.
It’s a tool I created for myself. If you want to pick one up, you can get the Productive Christian Journal here.
But if you don’t use that, you can write it on a sticky note or somewhere else. It’s just one of the things that has really has helped me. I use it every single day, and it helps me get stuff done by focusing on just the top three things that’ll make my day more productive if I get those done first.
This article originally appeared on ProPreacher.com.